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A local company built by alumni has lent Concordia a flight simulator, likely making it the only Quebec university to be so equipped.
Mechtronix Systems has Concordia roots that go back to the 1970s, when a visionary professor, Jaroslav Svoboda, told five students — Joe Frazao, Tom Allen, Xavier Hervé, Fernando Petruzziello and Marco Petruzziello — to build a flight simulator using new microprocessor technology. They built it, graduated, and established their own company in 1987.
Mechtronix began as an engineering consulting group specializing in all aspects of microprocessor industrial applications. It developed a niche in flight simulators, and now competes with CAE and others in the world market, employing 200 people and growing at the rate of 40 per cent a year.
Luis Rodrigues teaches Flight Control Systems and Avionics Navigation Systems, undergraduate and graduate, as part of the Aerospace and Vehicle Systems option in the Mechanical Engineering program.
The students won’t learn how to fly, he explained. As part of their course in avionics navigation systems, they’ll learn how the cockpit instruments work and how to use them to navigate. They’ll also design autopilots and test them in simulated flight for a class of flight control.
Previously, Rodrigues taught the course using computer simulation, where there is no hardware involved. “With a real flight simulator, one can perform a hardware-in-the-loop simulation, and also a pilot-in-the-loop simulation, by adding a pilot.”
Rodrigues took a “test flight” in the simulator with a pilot from Mechtronix, and found it interesting. “The pilot was explaining to the students in real time all the steps involved in the manoeuvre of take-off, going around the airport and landing in the same airport.”
The prototype built by Svoboda and his students sat side by side with the donated simulator in the Flight Simulator Lab, a small facility under the Hall Building, at a celebration on April 7.
Joe Frazao, vice-president of Mechtronix, spoke about how it felt to give back to the university that had been so pivotal in the company’s history, and asked for a moment’s silence in honour of Svoboda, who died in 2004.